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Illustrator Spotlight: Oliver Lancaster

Posted By Arnika Bhupal on February 28, 2018

Here at Doodle Bag, creativity is widely encouraged. Without artistic souls, our cotton tote bags would be plain and boring!

Today we talk to Oliver Lancaster Smith: an accomplished illustrator, designer and artist from Huddersfield who works in a wide range of styles and media. Since graduating with a first in Graphic Media Communication he has been creating artwork for a selection of high profile clients and has shown his work in exhibitions across the globe. His portfolio includes design, art, murals, events, workshops and consultation.

Oliver likes to experiment with two levels of complexity. His infamous work is known for ‘lo-fi’ bold graphic prints, whereas the other side of his work includes pieces that are very intricate. Over the years, his distinctive graphic designs have made their way onto screen-printed apparel including T-shirts for Not Guilty and even music duo Rizzle Kicks T-shirts in 2012. You may have seen his work make public appearances in the form of event posters and graffiti-style wall murals, too.

We talked to Ollie about his work, influences and experiences.

Oliver Lancaster

Wall mural at Ox and Bone

Hi Ollie! Hows life treating you in the North? What have you been up to recently?

Hello Doodle Bag! Life is pretty great up North, I recently moved into a great studio in Huddersfield with a large number of highly talented individuals - so that has been a really inspiring kick start to my work this year. I work with a company called CACA UK in China who provide Art and Design college education so that has been very rewarding and interesting work, through which I have been able to meet some very knowledgeable educators and some lovely and skilled young adults beginning their higher education.

Other recent projects in the last two weeks have included creating an exhibition catalogue and promotional materials for textile artist Kate Whitehead's forthcoming show in London, which was a pleasure and I think a great result. I have also been creating a T-Shirt design for the Huddersfield Literature Festival and of course some more corporate work for larger companies. Along with my Art and Design work I enjoy running live music events.


Your work is inspired by the everyday; particularly with regards to youth culture. What is it about youth culture that interests you?

It's usually the most vibrant, quick changing, reactive, subversive... I think that a great deal of the most progressive creatives through history have rightly recognised this and embraced alongside nurturing these cultures.... also I'm not that old yet! They can be more inclusive and far less pretentious, I am also really interested and motivated by all-encompassing subcultures that have their own fashion, music, design, sports, style ...language.


The more intricate pieces that you create are thought to recreate the complex thought structure and wide range of emotions/experiences in daily life. Does the theme of your work change with how you are feeling on that day?

Of course, even during my process of creating the piece... Although many of the pieces you are referring to are created over several sessions, sometimes even over large periods of times. However this only adds to the overall effect in my opinion - thinking, daydreams, the way the brain works is not simple - trying to pin down 'what you are thinking about' is such a huge challenge and so I aim to translate the complexity of all the differing thoughts, memories, opinions into a visual piece that describes that chaos. Some ideas are seen more clearly, some are half thoughts, some become so obstructed to become nonsense. Much of the individual 'components' are changed and subverted until they take on an entirely different meaning by the completion of the piece.


Within this work the audience can see ‘parts of the whole’ and uncover parts of the overall story. The content can be quite ‘random’ – how do you find fresh inspiration for all the tiny parts of your work?

As I mentioned thoughts, daydreams and opinions are in there... many taken from my mood at the time, or reaction to current affairs or even overheard conversation. Another is music which is a constant and extremely important part of my life, half a lyric, a misspelled song title etc. Experience in the world is important rather than me just having an overactive imagination - which can at times be hard to cultivate, on purpose. Instead travel, events, shared experiences devouring media, literature etc are all fed through and out into my work.


Your graphic work often includes people – do you have any muses?

Yes, my girlfriend has been a constant muse in my work, and has had to put up with me sometimes directing her to do quick shoots; however as a part time model she is quite used to it by now! In this digital age with such access to literally millions of pictures it is really useful to also be able to see an image that catches my eye, a face, the shape of someones body or something of this nature and be able to make a quick design - often quite quick, inaccurate or a poor rendering of the original - but the idea is there, and everything eventually feeds into my work. There are some really talented portrait photographers and models on instagram who have helped my work.


You are always changing it up with new projects. What have been the most fun to be a part of?

That's quite a tough question! The reason I like to change methods, style, material is because I like to experience the different aspects that make them fun. A very quickly done piece that captures the brief in a few strokes of a pen and is finished in a rough way can be really enjoyable and cathartic - but in the opposite way, a piece which needs to go from concept sketch through numerous iterations and changes, with input from many people and finally becomes a polished piece is enjoyable in a totally different way, rewarding that the work put in has come to fruition. I guess now, what is most enjoyable to me is working with a client or collaborator who is totally open - inventive, creative, laterally minded. So there is no restriction as to where the project will go and we can both work together to create something really interesting that is not the obvious result.


Your work would look great on shopping bags. Would you ever consider setting up shop?

Yes is the short answer, I have a project which we have been working on for a while but will be launching in the near future - it is more product based and will feature myself and Nadia's work across a range of fashion and products. That's all I can tell you for now, but you can follow me on Instagram to hear about it when it launches!

Thanks for chatting with us, Ollie.

See Olivers work and upcoming projects at:

Oliver Lancasters website

Oliver Lancasters instagram

Oliver Lancasters facebook